Pennsylvania, Where We've Been

The Amish, Gettysburg, Hersheypark, Moses, Lancaster Barnstormers Baseball, & Valley Forge

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The Amish

The Old Order Amish in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania are known for their simple way of life, slowness in accepting modern technology, and unique religious beliefs. 

I had known a bit about the Amish before visiting, but some of my previously held beliefs were corrected when we met a local Amish man who took us on a tour around town. We pulled up to a small stand (Aaron and Jessica’s Buggy Rides) located in a parking lot and inquired about the rides. Within about 10 minutes we were in the back of a buggy riding with a very nice Amish man who was eager to tell us all about the town, his farm, his neighbor’s farms, and even some Amish history.

Apparently, the Amish are located in over 30 states across the U.S., not just Pennsylvania and Ohio, as I had originally believed. There are even Amish in Colorado, near the city of Oxford. 

He went on to explain that about 5-6 years ago, the Pennsylvania Amish had the option to install solar panels on their roofs to be able to power the refrigerator and the washing machine. When I asked how many watts he had on his own roof, he just laughed and said, “Oh, I have no idea about any of that.” 

When we pulled up his driveway on the farm, his son brought us a basket of goodies and drinks to purchase. The kids were excited for the treat and each picked out a root beer and some cookies. 

They later told me that the cookies were delicious, but the root beer tasted a bit earthy. It was nothing like they had tried before and they didn’t finish it, but as a homemade root beer, it was probably a more natural flavor than they were used to.

Our guide told us about how teenagers think it’s funny to drive by the Amish horse and buggies and honk their horns to spook the horses. Definitely not a good thing to do! Do you see the reflection above where he is sitting? That is part of the front windshield that opens up to allow fresh air to enter if it’s a hot day outside. On colder days it can be closed and there are slots where the reins slide into to still allow the driver to control the horse. When he closed the window it stayed relatively warm inside, even for as cold a day as it was.

After the buggy ride, we went down the road to The Amish Experience, a school and Amish house replica to learn more about what everyday Amish life was about. 

Kids go to school beginning in first grade and are taught in the same one-room schoolhouse until 8th grade. They learn out of the same book at different levels. If there are students that do not understand their class information when the class is taught, the teacher takes those students outside and teaches them separately so as not to disturb the rest of the class as they work on their class problems. Homework is generally not given and all class work is completed during the school day.

The teacher is an unmarried female from among the Amish community. She makes $40 per day teaching the kids and with 180 school days per year, she brings home only about $7200 per school year. Since she is living at home at the time and food is provided by her family, her income is generally hers to keep and do with as she pleases. The Amish pay a school tax required by the local government, but they do not use those funds to pay the Amish teachers. To keep the government from interfering with the schools, they pay an additional amount to the teacher for each child enrolled in the one-room schoolhouse.

The curriculum that she teaches from has been pre-approved through the state of Pennsylvania. 

This would be a standard Amish house (below). The furniture is made by local Amish artisans, the clothes are sewn either by hand or on sewing machines powered by batteries. The quilts are also sewn by the women of the community. On the closet door hangs an Amish wedding dress. The air conditioner on the wall would not typically be part of an Amish house, but because this was a replica, code required it.

The kitchen was fairly interesting. Do you notice anything interesting that you would not find in a typical “English” house?

Take a look at the light centered over the dining room table. That light is powered by a cordless drill battery! As long as the Amish are not connected to the local electrical grid, some electric usage is allowed in their homes. The batteries they use are powered either by the solar panels they have on their roof (within the last few years) or by a diesel powered generator. 

Out in the barn of Old Windmill Farm, we met and held a number of farm animals. It’s Spring in Pennsylvania and that means new baby livestock and fowl had just been born a few weeks earlier. 

These young cattle were eager to take a drink from a bottle and Ellie had the time of her life giving it to them. 

The other group that was with us on this tour were big city folk, from New York. I don’t think they’d been around farm animals too much as the wife asked if these were sheep. Nope, definitely not sheep!

She soon was able to learn what a sheep looked like though. This little lamb was only about 4-6 weeks old. 

Ellie was the most eager of the bunch to hold all the farm animals. The Amish man caught onto this and let her hold as many as she could at one time. Look at all those cute little chicks!

Jaden held one of the cute bunnies and wow, was its fur incredibly soft!

When the kids were little, we were able to visit local farms and they would have a barrel ride driven by tractor. They’re always a lot of fun, but this one was unique in that it was driven by a horse.

Just before finishing up our Amish farm tour, we went on a hay ride. Ellie was able to take the reigns for a little while and control the horses on their way back to the barn. Just an overall really fun day!

On another trip we went to check out an Amish furniture store. Heavy, quality furniture pieces for sale in many of the local stores.


Gettysburg National Military Park

On a rainy Sunday afternoon, we stopped by the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum & Visitor Center. We were hoping they had a shuttle to take us on a tour of the park since we were towing the fifth wheel behind us. Unfortunately, the guided tour was rather expensive for a family of four, so we decided to visit the museum instead, then disconnect from the trailer and use the National Park Service app’s self-driving audio tour.  

The museum was actually really good. As you walk through different sections, there are videos that explain what happened each day of the battle. Surrounding each of the video rooms are artifacts and memorabilia dedicated to the war. 

Do you recognize this little gem? I’d never heard of it either! This was the Declaration of Independence of the State of South Carolina. Since South Carolina was the first to secede from the Union, it’s only fitting they would be the first to declare their independence.  

A view of the battlefield on a wet, chilly day in May. This field was part of the hollowed grounds that bled red more than 160 years ago when brother fought against brother.

Up on the right on the far hill is the famous Little Round Top.

Canons are left standing in place to memorialize the battle that was fought here.

The Gettysburg cemetery continues seemingly endlessly across the rolling green hillsides. This is near the location where President Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg Address.


Wonderful, delicious milk chocolate! They have plenty of that and more at Hershey’s Chocolate World. The tour at Hershey’s Chocolate World is free and open to the public, but be aware that in order to get to the ride you first have to go past all kinds of yummy, delectable sweets. Temptation!

They had every variety of Hershey’s candy available on site, many of which I have never even heard of. They each got to pick out their own sweet treat after the ride. 

Just check out these Reese’s varieties. Potato Chip, Pretzels, Reese’s Pieces, and Reese’s Puffs. Anyone want to go in halfsies?!

Alright, now onto Hersheypark. The theme park is actually owned by a different company than the candy manufacturing brand, but it retains the same name, iconic figures, and the front gates are only a few hundred feet from the front doors of Hershey’s Chocolate World.

The rides are named after the candy varieties as well. The Hershey’s Tower was the monster tower drop ride that my fearless one wanted so much to ride by herself. They had some other pretty crazy rides as well with near weightless drops, high airtime, and crazy turns.

We were game for many of them, but one ride stood out as a bit too adventurous for any of us, known as the Great Bear. That crazy coaster had several inverted loops and drops that would have made anyone’s stomach turn.  

Since we went early in the season, some of the rides were either not manned or low-staffed, but I imagine that as the season progresses and the schools let out for the summer, they will open up all their rides to full capacity.

One of the downsides of the park that I can point to is the inaccuracy of the wait time in line. Regardless of what the wait time said in the app, it always took twice as long or longer to get through a ride. A 30 minute wait time would take an hour, 5 minutes would actually be 20 minutes. I didn’t want to find out what a 45 minute ride would have been like. 

Another would be the food. Universal Studios and Disney both had decent food selections in their parks, but Hersheypark was typical, greasy, and overpriced American fare. Burgers, chicken fingers, fries, and pizza as an example.

Moses at the Sight and Sound Theater

If you are even in Lancaster, Pennsylvania or Branson, Missouri, do yourself the favor of visiting the Sight and Sound Theatre for one of their amazing Biblical theatrical presentations. Wow, that was an amazing production! With real animals running up and down the aisles and on stage, it is sure to please. 

They wouldn’t let us take pictures while it was in progress, so this is the only one I can show you.

We plan on being in Branson, Missouri next year so we are going to hit another one, hopefully, at that time. Well worth the trip!


Lancaster Barnstormers Baseball

Take me out to the ballgame… on May 4th, Star Wars day. The kids hadn’t been to a ballgame before, so this was a great opportunity to introduce them to the game. 

We filled the kids up with ice cream and icees and enjoyed watching the game and mascot dance on the sidelines. There were plenty of foul balls, but one never made it our direction despite the kid’s pleas for them to “hit one this way!”

Jaden did catch a shirt though that was thrown to the audience. Unfortunately it ended up being a XL, so he at least has a new sleep shirt. Ha!

Stormtroopers on Star Wars day were walking around throughout the bleachers. Actually, I think this one was a little tall for a storm trooper. Don’t you think? 


Valley Forge National Historic Park

Our last stop out of Pennsylvania was to Valley Forge. It was here that Washington and his men (and some women and children) camped for the winter. The British had taken control of nearby Philadelphia and Valley Forge seemed like a good defensive position just outside of the city.

As soon as they arrived, Washington had them build shelters with beds and fireplaces to keep them out of the bitter cold. Ten to twelve men slept in each of the shelters with a fireplace constantly burning in order to keep them warm.

It was also a time of starvation. Surviving on only 500 calories a day, something had to be done to provide nourishment for the fighting force or they weren’t going to be able to win the war. It was looking desperate when illness entered the camp. Nearly 2,000 fighting men died that winter, not from battle, but from diseases like influenza and typhoid. 

Washington’s Headquarters sits along the front line position on the way to Philadelphia. It was here that the battle plans were made, dignitaries were entertained, and meetings between ranking officers took place. 

One particular man he met while here was a Prussian officer named Baron von Stueben. Washington was impressed with his skills and assigned him the task of organizing and training the troops. It is actually von Stueben who we have to thank for shaping our military into what it is today. 

This was Washington’s personal meeting room on the first floor of the house.

Martha joined Washington during this time and helped take care of the officer’s needs while at the camp. Many other wives and their children also came to spend the winter with their husbands at the camp and help out as needed.

On the third floor of Washington’s Headquarters, more beds were sprawled out for the officers and other guests of the General.



Pinch Pond Family Campground

Pinch Pond is set in the woods or rural Pennsylvania. There were a few low hanging leaves as well pulled off the freeway and onto the highway roads.

We pulled up to the gate and checked in. They gave us a card that activates the gate on the way in. In the office, they have a little store with some toys, a small section of groceries and a game room. 

We got a pull-thru site that had just enough rom for the truck on the side. No problem with the utilities, but it was too wooded to get much use out of Starlink. 

The pool was not yet open for the season. On weekends, they have special activities for the kids. Since we were there during Star Wars week, the craft was to make a glow-in-the-dark light saber. 

We were able to use our Verizon phones and AT&T data plan with 3 bars on each, but got 5 bars on our Verizon phones.